dreamshark: (Default)
 Start Reading Now is a small local charity that does something very simple: they give free, new books to kids in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade to read over the summer. We just made a donation. It seems like something that my fannish friends would like to support. Here's the description from their website. 

By hosting book fairs right before summer break, we help kids create their own library of 30 books built over 3 years - at the end of 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. 

To identify the kids who are most in need of books, we work with local public schools that have 50% or more of their students on free or reduced lunch. 

During the day of the book fair, students pick out 10 brand new books and use a $50 Start Reading Now voucher to pay for them. We also provide "This Book Belongs To" stickers and a backpack to carry their new belongings - adding to the sense of ownership and value. 

Our book fairs are low-effort, low-risk and high-impact, making our program an exciting new way to drive change in our community.


dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Scored a 3-month free membership to Audible.com, which means Three Free Books. What should I get?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
It was very good. Thanks to whomever recommended it to me (Lydy, maybe?).

I read it on my Kindle. It's available in e-book format from the HCLIB, and the waitlist wasn't terribly long. Recommended.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Okay, all the sff paperbacks are on shelves with their spines visible! Well, for certain values of "all."  I'm not counting the anthologies, but those will fit on the shelves downstairs in the den if I don't find a better place for them. And, most important, I'm not counting the probably THOUSANDS of books that Richard has hidden away in the den - many of them on shelves but probably not all of them. These are newer, bloated size paperbacks, mostly of a genre I have no interest in. So for the purposes of this project I'm pretending they don't exist, except for when I find little caches of books that I feel are longing to be reunited with their sisters in the back room (like all that Mercedes Lackey).

However, I am not satisfied with the way things are arranged: A's and B's in the hall, B's in the shelf by the attic step, C's and D's on the shelves in the middle of the office, and so on. I want them to flow logically from A-Z, and I'd rather not use so many of the hardback-sized shelves for paperbacks.

So ideally I will finish up this project by adding a new set of paperback shelves in the hall where the tipsy pile of books and comics used to be. Unfortunately, as far as I know, nobody actually sells paperback shelves. The best I can probably do is a much-too-deep cabinet with movable shelves (and preferably extra shelves for sale as piece parts). Width should be somewhere between 36-41" and height between 45" and 60". Ideally, depth would be no more than 6" but I don't think anybody sells shelves like that. Depth could be as much as 11-1/2" without exceeding the space. Richard has some in the den that more or less fill the bill (except that they are in use, of course). He thinks he got them at Menards. Anybody have any other suggestions?

ETA: It looks like the best bet is to search for DVD or "multi-media" storage units. I still find it mind-boggling that NOBODY makes shelves for paperback storage, but as far as I can tell that is in fact the case. And even compact DVD shelves are hard to come by. A CD/DVD case is less than 6" deep, but most of the storage systems have shelves that are 9.5" deep. Why??

But this one doesn't look too bad. The shelves are only 7" deep and adjustable and the whole unit is about the size I want. I'm more in the mood to just go out and BUY the shelves I want, put them together and finish this project. But if that is just impossible, I can order these.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
I'm cleaning off shelves again. Just spent the day vacuuming the dust off of about 15 shelf-feet of old SF magazines (mostly 1960s-1980s, but some outliers from the 50's and some newer). About 3/4 of them are Analog SF, but there's a whole Cub box full of miscellaneous titles. Condition varies, but mostly in the Fair/Good/Very Good range.

If anybody would like some of these, please speak up. If there is interest I could bring them to a Minnstf meeting, but I'm not going to lug them around if nobody wants them.

Any suggestions where to donate them? 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)

Delivered 4 boxes and two bags of books to the Women's Prison Book Project (thanx to magenta for the tip). I estimate about 300 books, all in the non-fsf category. The huge tippy pile of books at the top of the stairs is gone and there are even 2 or 3 half empty shelves! Vast amounts of dust was vacuumed up, and at least 3 bookcases in this house now have no double stacked books.

Not only that, I found three books I have been trying to find for years! And two books belonging to other people, one of which I have returned.

I'm not sure why this was such exhausting work. I guess a lot of bending and reaching, getting up and getting down, and running up and down stairs looking for vacuum cleaner attachments and empty boxes.

Any way, a good weekend's work.

dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Or at the very least, not excruciatingly boring?

I checked out an audiobook version of Sense and Sensibility from HCLIB and started listening to it. The first chapters are not exactly gripping. First there is a long, long description of The Inheritance Problem (complete with what I recognize from Downton Abbey as an entail). The lovable but impetuous mother and her darling daughters are introduced. Then the various members of the extended family start checking in to Norland Park. There are now 2 ladies named Mrs. Dashwood, which is a bit confusing, and it doesn't help that John Dashwood refers to one of the Mrs. Dashwoods as his mother-in-law rather than step-mother. I rewound to the beginning to listen to the family relationships again, since I couldn't quite get how all these people were related. Turns out I had it right the first time.

Anyway, the author helpfully informs us that Mama Dashwood is a good person, but the other Mrs. Dashwood is absolutely awful. This point is then driven home with a sledgehammer by an interminable dialog between the bad Mrs. D and her husband about, guess what, The Inheritance. In this interlude the remarkable Mr. Dashwood is relieved to learn that he doesn't have to honor his promise to his dying father after all. One gets the impression that this is pretty much the last time he will give the matter a thought. This is because he is made of cardboard. (Or probably "pasteboard," given the era).

Then more members of the Awful Mrs. Dashwood's family start turning up, one after another after another. I thought we were finally done with the introductions after we had worked our way down to the not-quite-as-awful-as-the-rest-of-them brother and we'd finally hear something about the purported romance between him and Elinor. But no! First we have to introduce ANOTHER BROTHER...

At this point I turned it off. Is this thing ever going to get better? If so, is it going to happen soon? How many more in-laws are going to be introduced before something actually happens?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
I have a box of books that don't fit anywhere and I certainly don't care to keep them, but Id rather not toss them in the garbage. Some are F&SF, but most are not. They range from random paperbacks to old dictionaries to 80's pop culture books to How to Repair a Refrigerator.

What should I do with them?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] lydy for recommending the audio version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. A wonderful book (which I had never read) and yes, it worked extremely well in audio format. Usually I poke along through audio books, listening only when I'm walking or doing simple chores, but this one was so good that it ended up sucking hours out of my day because I couldn't wait to get back to it and couldn't find that many useful ways to occupy my hands while I listened.

I finished it yesterday, and I feel bereft. Any more recommendations?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
I loaded a bunch of library books on my iPhone to take on vacation, but in the interest of not running down my all-important cell phone battery on the plane, I turned to my old iTouch instead. So there I was in airplane mode with only what was already on the device: mostly a bunch of classic literature downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

So I started reading "Kim" on the plane. Loved it. Never even started on the new books I'd downloaded, just Kipling every night. Finished it up on the plane home, and now feel a little bereft without the company of young Kim and his gang of colorful friends - the mad Tibetan Lama, the red-bearded Afghan horse trader, the polo-playing colonel, and of course the mysterious Jewel Master of Simla. What a great book. I can't believe I'd never read it before. 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
I finished Ivanhoe, continuing throughout to be surprised by how good it was. I now understand why it was one of Richard's favorite books as a kid and suggested that he read it again to be surprised at the undercurrent of dry humor and political commentary that sails over the heads of the 12-year-old audience. It's much like the Baum Oz books in that way. I liked Ivanhoe so much that I moved the 1997 Ivanhoe mini-series to the top of my DVD Netflix queue. That's the filmic version that got the best reviews. I may read Rob Roy next.

But first I galloped through my Mother's Day gift from Thorin, Below Stairs. An interesting bit of background for both Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs although the "upstairs" folks certainly don't come off as well as they do in the television versions.
[livejournal.com profile] mle292, you might be interested in the view of the class situation from the kitchen.

Finally watched "Lincoln," which I liked considerably better than the disappointing "Argo." It's pretty much "The West Wing" in 1865. It's kind of an uphill battle to generate suspense for the passage of the 13th Amendment, but I learned a lot about the Lincoln household that I either never knew or had forgotten. Incidentally, Lizzie (the black woman who always seems to be at Mary Lincoln's elbow) was a real person, not a character inserted by Hollywood to be the token black person in all those scenes. Daniel Day-Lewis does indeed create a compelling and human portrait of Lincoln.

I can't even remember what it was like to watch a historical movie in the days before Wikipedia.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
For the time being I've given up on the fickle library collection of e-books and am now reading some of the (free) classic historical fiction that I gave Amber for Christmas. Lorna Doone had its moments, but was frankly kind of a slog. But Ivanhoe is fantastic!  I can't believe I never read this book before. My mother kept trying to get me to read it, but for some reason I found the title off-putting; it just sounded grandiose and stuffy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's a rollicking good story, artfully told, with just a hint of dry humor running along underneath. Action, intrigue, damsels in distress (plucky, resourceful ones). Heroic swineherds and jesters. Incognito knights in black armor. Evil Knights Templar. A thoroughly despicable villain whose French name translates roughly as "Meathead."  And, of course... ROBIN HOOD!
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Please recommend a library book available in audio or ebook format.  I have finally mastered the technical aspects of downloading and consuming library books, but still have not found a good method for finding a book I might want to read.

However, occasionally I do stumble on something. I recently finished "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D," an astonishingly good first novel by Nichole Bernier. It's a subtle, thoughtful story about how little we truly know about the people closest to us. It's a novel I think would only have been written by a woman, and its most likely audience is other women, but it certainly doesn't deserve a dismissive categorization like "chick lit."  It's just a really good book about people who seem so real that they practically walk off the page.

Anybody else found something good to download from the library?  
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
What are you reading?
How are you reading it? (paper book, audio-book, ebook?)
Why are you reading it?
What's interesting about it?


Repeat as necessary if you read multiple books at once, or for recently read books.

------------
What are you reading? (first answer)
Little, Big - by John Crowley

How are you reading it? (paper book, audio-book, ebook?)
Audiobook, downloaded from library.

Why are you reading it?
I had Novelty, (short works by John Crowley) sitting on my nightstand for months. Periodically I would get in a mood to read before bed and would peck away at it. About the time I finished the novella about time travel it finally penetrated what an excellent s.f. writer this man is. I was surprised to realize how many of the ideas in this one little anthology had recurred in only slightly altered form in Hugo nominated stories I have read in recent years. Whether intentional or unintentional plagiarism, I have no idea, but IMHO Crowley did it better. So I decided go back and reread one of his better-known works. Since his language is so lush, I thought it would go well as an audio book.

What's interesting about it?
As an audio-book it works reasonably well. The language and images are lovely, but on the downside it's slow to pick up momentum. I appreciate the deep background, but in an audiobook that's sometimes a problem because there is not enough sense of urgency to keep me from getting distracted by podcasts. I finally got to the point where Barbarossa makes his (re)appearance and stuff starts happening, and now I'm crashing right through chapter after chapter. I've always enjoyed the "urban fantasy" genre where Faerieland and the human world intersect, and nobody does it better than Crowley.

---------
What are you reading? (2nd answer)
Lorna Doone - R.D. Blackmore

How are you reading it? (paper book, audio-book, ebook?)
Ebook, on my iPhone. Downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg, *.epub format. Reader app: iBooks.

Why are you reading it?
Amber asked for "historical fiction in Nook format" for Christmas, so I downloaded a bunch of public-domain historical fiction. She thought she might start with this one, so I decided to read it too.

What's interesting about it?
Historical fiction written in the past is doubly interesting - gives you insight into both eras. This one is written in 1869, takes place about 200 years earlier in the West Country of England, based on historical events with fictional characters added in. The author is a native of the region and took great pains to make the language authentic. I remember really enjoying this book as a child, and I'm curious to see if I can remember why. I'm pretty sure I had no idea what the historical context was when I originally read it. Even this time round, I found the schoolboy reminiscences in the first couple of chapters pretty incomprehensible, but once we got to the creaking of the gallows on the fogbound moor and the terrifying passage of the Doone clan through the valley below I remembered what I liked about it.

---------
What are you reading? (3rd answer)
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell.

How are you reading it? (paper book, audio-book, ebook?)
Ebook, downloaded from library. Actually, I am NOT reading it now because I didn't get done with it in time and it expired. I put it back on my waiting list and someday maybe I'll be able to check it out again. Grrr..

Why are you reading it?
I was profoundly affected by her WWII historical, A Thread of Grace

What's interesting about it?
Her characters, and the thread of horror that clearly hangs over the setup chapters. I don't read horror fiction, per se, but anything that has a kind of Gothic darkness at the core of it tends to get its hooks into me. I just hope I don't forget who all these people are before I get the book back again.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)

Two or three years ago I started trying to identify the bizarre regional accent in a podcast drama and spent about 4 hours clicking my way through online articles about the fascinating West Country dialect. Did you know that's the accent people are mimicking when they "talk like a pirate, arrrr?" That's because Robert Newton, the actor who played Long John Silver in a variety of film and TV shows in the 1950's, hailed from Dorset. And that's only one of the many fascinating tidbits I learned that night. Let's just say it is a linguistically interesting part of England.

Fast forward to Christmas, 2012, when Amber asked for some "historical fiction in Nook format."  She never said it had to be NEW historical fiction, so I started downloading *.epub versions of Sir Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, and eventually Richard Doddridge Blackmore. Both Richard and I recall reading Lorna Doone when we were kids and retaining the vague idea that it was set in Scotland somewhere. Well, it's not.  It's set in Exmoor. It's based on the lurid local history of the outlaw Doone clan, but what we mostly remembered was the black cliffs and waterfalls of Doone Glen and the exquisite spookiness of the soggy, foggy moors. And where is Exmoor?  Just a short 50 miles or so from Dartmoor, the setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles. Remember the craggy tors towering above the treacherous Grimpen Mire, where all those innocent wild ponies sank screaming to their deaths? Doesn't that sound like a fine place for a vacation?

So now I'm planning (just in case a trip abroad suddenly seems possible) a literary tour of the West Country of England. What other writers and artists have been inspired by the West Country?  Thomas Hardy comes to mind. And Agatha Christie. Terry Pratchett? 

Here's a picture of some adorable Exmoor Ponies, just waiting to be sucked down into the mire.
exmoor_ponies

dreamshark: (Default)
For all my kvetching, I tore right througoh "Tunnel in the Sky," finding it to be a dandy audiobook. It's a cracking good story, and just about the right length for reading aloud. I realize now that [livejournal.com profile] carbonel was being generous when she referred to protagonist Rod as an "unreliable narrator." "Dumb as a box of rocks" might be a better description. But he does manage to buy a few clues during the course of the story, so I kept rooting for him. The relationship between Rod and Grant (the poly-sci major who edges him out in the first mayoral election) is unexpectedly interesting - really the heart of the book.

When I looked up the story online (just to see when it was written) I discovered that there has been an ongoing controversy over what race Rod is supposed to be. The question had never occurred to me - I assumed that he was white, like most s.f. heroes. But there are a few little hints in the course of the book that he might be black, and when Heinlein was asked about it, he confirmed it. Interesting. Since I ran into this tidbit before I started reading, I looked for the clues while reading and didn't find much. At one point Rod and his buddy Jimmy are goofing around pretending to be dangerous animals and Rod refers to himself as "a black panther." And towards the end, Rod describes Carolyn (who is clearly of African origin) as "looking a lot like his sister." That's all I could find. I like the idea that Heinlein was so comfortable with his vision of a post-racist society that he could happily envision his protagonist as black (even if he didn't think he could get away with doing so openly). If only he were equally successful at envisioning a post-sexist society.

Now that I'm done with the book, I wonder if Rod was not only secretly black, but also secretly gay. He seems a LOT more enthusiastic about his relationship with Jack when he thinks that she is a guy, droning on and on about how well they "hit it off" and how they work together like two halves of the same brain. Once Jimmy points out the obvious, Rod's ardor cools considerably. He and Jack remain friends, but are never as close as they were. And then he manages to hang around with Carolyn for the next 2 years while remaining oblivious to all her attempts to hit on him. Once the kids decide that they are never going to be rescued they start enthusiastically coupling up, but not Rod. He gives a rather lame disclaimer - since he is the group leader he can't be playing favorites - but since he is NOT actually the leader of the community at this point it rings a little hollow. Hmmm.
dreamshark: (Default)
Eww. The Jubal Harshaw of this book is Deacon Matson. He's annoying enough with the endless stream of epigrams and the world-weary condescending attitude. But at least he doesn't have that squicky harem swarming around him, which is a relief. Then young Rod mentions his sister and old Deacon's ears perk up. "I must meet your sister sometime," he rumbles, as poor Rod scampers up the ramp to his close encounter with gruesome death. Please tell me that Rod doesn't come back from his adventure to find the creaky old Deacon engaged to his sister!
dreamshark: (Default)
This book is beginning to remind me strongly of  "The Hunger Games."  Coincidence, or another example of Heinlein's pervasive influence on the genre?

ETA: Turns out I'm not the first person to notice that similarity.
dreamshark: (Default)
A colleague gave me a 3-month free membership to Audible.com, which got me reinterested in audiobooks. Not interested enough to pay $14-20 per book, however, especially considering how much there is to listen to for free. This sent me back to Hennepin County Library online, where I enthusiastically added about a dozen titles to my wait queue. However, if you pick titles that are old and out of fashion, there is no wait. Thus, Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. I'm having such fun listening to it that I thought it would be fun to blog it. So here's my first impressions.


  • I read this book as a pre-teen, and it was not only my favorite Heinlein EVER, it was one of my all-time childhood favorite books. Is it any wonder I'm such a fan of "Survivor?"

  • Ugh, I think I see now why people make nasty cracks about the early sf masters as literary stylists. Stilted dialogue, internal monologues studded with long expository passages ("As you know, self..."), and in general kind of a tin ear. But it still grabs me. Of the dozen or so audiobooks I checked out, this is one of the few I think I'm going to finish. It's just a great story.

  • It's funny re-reading this old favorite with the perspective of Heinlein's later work in mind. A lot of the same characters are there, including an early appearance of the Kick-Ass Female (Rod's big sister the space marine) and the Tedious Old Blowhard (Professor Whatsisname).

  • Is it weird that I love the parts where Rod is agonizing over what equipment to take with him on the survival test? I like the fact that Heinlein has clearly spent so much time thinking this through. All his ideas sound thoughtful and plausible, until he gets to drinking water. Rod seems to think that he can carry enough fresh water in his Camelbak Hydration System to get through 10 days of wilderness survival. I don't know, dude, I think a portable water-purification system would be a good backup plan.

dreamshark: (Default)
One of my colleagues is looking for recommendations for books for her precocious 8-year-old daughter. My friend is Chinese, so she isn't familiar with classic American children's literature and would like some suggestions.  The little girl recently discovered "Wrinkle in Time" and couldn't put it down, and Liling is looking for more science fiction books that will keep her reading voraciously.  Any ideas?  
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